BY LINDA BENTLEY | SEPTEMBER 22, 2010
Council nixes GP amendment for Area 25, passes Area 18 and Area 10
‘Phoenix has given us lights, noise, traffic and, now, empty buildings’
Ron Iverson expressed his opposition to a general plan amendment for Area 25 at this time, but also to thank the town for “generously giving of their time” to meet with him and his neighbors, calling the meetings “productive, positive and enjoyable.” Photo by Linda Bentley
CAVE CREEK – Planning Director Ian Cordwell gave a brief overview of three general plan amendments brought forward by the town to change the land use designation in three areas surrounding the intersection of Carefree Highway and Cave Creek Road from Desert Rural to mixed use, paving the way for commercial rezoning in the future.
The applications were named: Area 25, consisting of 25 parcels and approximately 50 acres along the north side of Carefree Highway between 48th Street and 54th Street; Area 18, consisting of 18 parcels and approximately 30 acres adjacent to the Chevron station; and Area 10, consisting of 10 parcels and approximately 18 acres along Cave Creek Road south of Walmart.
Citizens, primarily from the Estado de Cholla subdivision at the northwest corner of 48th Street and Carefree Highway, showed up en mass, once again, to express their views about Area 25.
Councilman Ralph Mozilo asked if there was any urgency to a general plan amendment for the area, which would change.
Cordwell said there was not and stated, during a public meeting in July, text amendments were suggested to deal with buffers.
Mozilo asked if an overlay district could be put into place with lower building heights to address the neighbors’ concerns.
Cordwell said he would need to talk to legal counsel.
Norman Surrat, associate pastor of Carefree Church on the northwest corner of 50th Street and Carefree Highway, and which has since moved to its new facility across the street, spoke in favor of the general plan amendment. He said the old church still provides youth programs, which will move across the street once there is funding to complete that phase.
Surrat said the church has had 10 – 12 inquiries about purchasing the old church property.
However, he said none were for residential use.
Karen McCracken, who said she and her husband have owned the property at the north east corner of 53rd Street since the mid ‘50s when they were students at Arizona State, spoke in favor of the amendment.
McCracken said they planned to build their retirement home there, but it was no longer a desirable location to build a home.
She held up her property tax bill from 1958 and said the taxes were $2.02 for that year, which she said could be paid in two installments of $1.01 each.
McCracken said the last inquiry they’ve had for their property was someone who wanted to put in a medical facility.
Attorney Julian Weltsch, on behalf of property owners Harry and Nancy Thurston, spoke in favor of the amendment, stating, “People do not want this for residential. Nobody wants to build there.”
Timothy Spence, who has lived in the neighborhood since 1968, favored the amendment.
Dick Gernandt, who was part of the original development team for Estado de Cholla, asked council to vote no at this time. He reminded the town of the zoning issues he had to deal with when developing the subdivision, pointing out there was multi-family residential zoning on the property.
Gernandt said he would like to put together an advisory committee to determine how Area 25 should be developed.
Wes Cooper stated he was afraid the town was using the White Paper as its guiding document and de facto general plan.
Paul Teixeira said citizens trusted the zoning when they bought and built and stated, “Phoenix has given us lights, noise, traffic and, now, empty buildings.”
Richard Johnson stated, “The town’s only benchmark for appropriate retail space is ‘more.’”
Rae Iverson thanked all who had taken the time to meet with them over the past several weeks and said, “Your openness as to your obligations and to hearing our concerns has been an enlightening experience.”
In closing, she said, “We want to be sure that what happens in Cave Creek is good for Cave Creek. To put a twist on our new logo, I want to hear the echo of Deputy Catherine Jones, ‘Well done, Cave Creek … perfectly civilized.’”
Ron Iverson spoke about how the planning commission, council and staff had generously given their time to meet with them and said, “I think I speak for the whole group when I say those meetings were productive, positive and enjoyable.”
Iverson asked council not to pass the general plan amendment and said residents want to keep working with town staff to develop an overlay for Area 25 that would define appropriate land use.
Paul Eelkema stated they had good dialogue with town staff that listened to them but said the town needs to address the conflict between commercial space and citizens’ needs.
“It’s the trust thing,” said Eelkema, “We trust you to put residents before speculators.”
David Alsever looked at those who claimed no one would want to buy the parcels for residential use and said, “People don’t buy it for residential because you don’t sell it for residential and don’t price it as residential.”
Barbara Ratti, whose home is adjacent to Area 25, requested a continuance and asked, “Who’s going to want to buy a house next door to commercial when they don’t know what it’s going to be?”
Russ Carlson also spoke to those in favor of the general plan amendment and said their prices, when their parcels were on the market, were double what other residential parcels were going for and he offered them $200,000 per parcel.
Councilman Steve LaMar moved to approve the amendment “for discussion purposes” and said, “The more unique we remain, the more attractive we are. The more attractive we are, the more valuable we are.”
While he believed Area 25 would require some commercial, LaMar said, “As far as I’m concerned, you’re going to have time to come up with an overlay.”
Councilman Ralph Mozilo, who seconded the motion, said the meeting he attended at the Eelkemas’ home was “the best meeting I ever had with citizens.”
Councilman Jim Bruce said, “When Walmart was coming in we knew what was coming – Walmart. I can’t support this at this time.”
Councilman Adam Trenk said it would be irresponsible of council to pass at this time, there was no pressing need and he didn’t support it.
Councilman Dick Esser said he agreed with LaMar and told the audience, “We are very approachable.”
Vice Mayor Ernie Bunch said he had a little different opinion and, although he felt 50 acres was overly aggressive, stated “Commercial property actually has a value and once all those goods and services are gone, we’re not positioning ourselves to take advantage.”
Rather than deny, Bunch hoped to continue for six months.
Mayor Vincent Francia told citizens, “You all are involved now in this community,” and said he couldn’t think of a better opportunity for the ASU urban planning students in attendance than the meeting they just attended.
Council voted 1-6, denying the general plan amendment, with Bunch voting in favor.
There was far less discussion and no public comment on the general plan amendments for Area 18, which passed by a vote of 6-1 with Bruce, who drives by a vacant Stagecoach Village every day and saw no urgent need, dissenting.
Area 10 also passed by a vote of 5-2 with Bruce and Mozilo dissenting.